Yesterday the Senate passed the Serve America Act which broadly expanded government “service” programs like AmeriCorps, by over 300%. As we explained last week when the House voted, the legislation dramatically increases federal involvement in the realm of volunteerism, continuing the trend toward an America in which “public service” only means working for the government.
Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) hammered this point home from the Senate floor:
What works in America today is our civil society–a lot of the volunteer groups that many of us have been a part of. I know for years I spent more time in United Way and a lot of the charity groups, being on their boards back in my community, and I saw what the volunteer arts groups and PTAs and health groups did to build a strong community. Civil society works in America. They are small groups. They are the true engines of character in our country. They promote service and patriotism. In this time where we have seen some of our economic institutions let us down, we have certainly seen our Government and our policies let us down, civil society does not let us down. It works in America today.
It is understandable why Congress would want to get involved. We see that passion to serve, that desire to do something that is greater than yourselves. We look at that working in our civil society and we want to get involved and expand it.
Unfortunately, our history shows us when Government gets involved, it tends to take something that is working and make it not work nearly as well. Civil society works because it is everything Government is not. It is small, it is personal, it is responsive, it is accountable. Civil society must be protected from any effort to make it more like Government.
That is what we are doing with this bill today. This bill centralizes control of important functions of our civil society. There is a downside to good intentions here in Government. The Founders created a limited government and our oath to support and defend the Constitution means that is our focus here. Our oath is to a limited government. The Founders wanted the people to be free from our good intentions. Government charity is anathema to what our Founders intended and what our Constitution stands for. Despite our good intentions, where we try to implement those good intentions and our compassion through the force of Government, we are effectively violating our oath of office here.
Read the whole speech here.